Let’s hop in the way back time machine really quick to take a peak at the last time the Broncos met the Jacksonville Jaguars. Denver’s coming off a disappointing 0-3 start where Mitch Trubisky found a way to call a timeout with .1 seconds left on the clock and Aaron Rodgers torched Josey Jewell. The vaunted Fangio defense isn’t just shaky, it’s straight up bad. So bad that Joe Flacco and the Scangarello offense can’t carry them to victories.
Week four begins with a lot of promise. The Broncos roll out to a 17-3 lead and have a drive to push the game out of reach for rookie Gardner Minshew before halftime, only Joe Flacco throws a mind numbing interception.
The pick marks the beginning of the collapse. Thanks to a lack of holding calls, Leonard Fournette rumbles for 225 yards on the ground. Jacksonville pulls ahead with a field goal after a seven minute drive. Flacco finds a way to march down the field to answer, tossing an eight yard touchdown to Courtland Sutton with 1:32 on the clock. It evaporates quickly. On the final drive of the game Bradley Chubb is tagged for a shaky roughing the passer call, and Minshew recovers his own fumble in time to move the Jags into position to kick a game winning field goal as time expires.
On paper, this year’s Broncos team is miles ahead of the 2019 roster while this year’s Jaguars are significantly weaker thanks to a rebuilt defense following their cap purge. Trevor Lawrence and a new coaching staff add elements of the unknown, but Denver should have a marked advantage. To get a better idea as to what to expect, I pored over what I could of the Jags all-22. What follows are a few thoughts off the tape.
Jags offense vs. Texans defense
- The Jags went three and out on 50% of their drives against a Lovie Smith defense that used cover two on the vast majority of their snaps.
- Trevor Lawrence is 6’6” and still had a pass batted down.
- On a related note: A.J. Cann is bad bad and it’ll show up when Jacksonville runs and passes. Dre’Mont Jones should have a very good day.
- Laviska Shenault is an elite athlete who combines topflight quickness, speed, and strength. Jacksonville tried to manufacture touches for him against Houston and if that continues we’ll see end arounds, crossers, screens, curls, RPOs, etc. He didn’t do a whole lot to create separation on his own, which makes sense given the questions about his route running coming out of Colorado.
- Lawrence was under duress on all three of his picks, which made his statline pretty ugly. With that in mind, there’s little doubt he has spectacular arm talent. He routinely displayed easy velocity and showed an ability to throw from multiple arm slots. He has the poise and mobility to make something happen when plays break down by escaping the pocket to buy himself time.
Lawrence is also a rookie and played fast and loose with the ball. Beyond the actual picks, he had three or four plays where he put the ball in harms way and Jacksonville’s defense didn’t bring it in. I’ll be disappointed if Denver doesn’t find a way to secure an interception this week.
- Health is going to be an x-factor here, but the Broncos’ front should dominate the line of scrimmage and leave little room to run for James Robinson.
- The Jags tight ends are nothing to write home about, but they’ll probably catch a few passes as outlet options.
- Von Miller against Jawaan Taylor should be a clear advantage for the Broncos. It wouldn’t surprise me if Malik Reed also finds his way into the backfield, as Cam Robinson’s a shaky pass protector.
Jags defense vs. Texans offense
- Jacksonville’s play caller Joe Cullen, who spent his entire NFL career as a defensive line coach before Urban Meyer hired him to coordinator the defense. I expect mostly single high shells, as that’s what the Jags did against Houston. Cullen also dialed up some looks where there wasn’t a safety deep. I’m curious if that happens again against K.J. Hamler’s speed and Shurmur’s affinity for iso shots.
Tyrod Taylor's 52-yard pass against the Jags.— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 17, 2021
Check out the slot to the top of the screen. If Taylor didn't have to elude the rush, that's an easy completion. pic.twitter.com/Eggtfn75an
- The Jags used some four man surfaces against Houston with three defensive linemen and an edge rusher out of their nickel package. I’m curious if that holds up against the Broncos’ 11 personnel (three receivers, one tight end, one back) as Jacksonville edge rushers are better than the Giants. Josh Allen and K’Lavon Chaisson both got past Laremy Tunsil on occasion, so I suspect the Broncos’ tackles could be tested.
- While Tyrod Taylor had a very good day against this secondary, it’s worth noting that Shaq Griffin had an opportunity to jump a comeback early in the game. It’s also notable that some of Taylor’s best plays came in unsustainable situations. He had a 40-yard pass to Brandin Cooks where he was falling back to avoid the Jacksonville rush and Cooks went up in double coverage to bring in the pass. Taylor had more than a couple plays where he danced around in the pocket to buy himself time and create a throwing window, with the Jags coverage failing to hold up long enough in coverage.
- If the Jags give Denver’s receivers as big a cushion as they typically gave the Houston pass catchers, spacing concepts will be successful. Tyrod Taylor didn’t hesitate to go after Griffin on curls to the boundary.
- I would hope Pat Shurmur tests Jacksonville’s ability to switch out of bunch sets, as they struggled to consistently do this in week one.
- Pat Shurmur used 12 or 13 personnel (2 or 3 tight end sets) on 53% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps against the Giants. If that continues it may be a slog running the ball, as Jacksonville looks like they’ll match heavier sets by overloading the box. Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon could find a ton of success if they make it to the second and third level, however.
- Myles Jacks has sideline to sideline range, but can struggle to shed blocks. I’m curious to see if the Broncos try to run downhill at him because if he’s left unblocked he has the wheels to run down the ball. We could also see Jack lined up wide of the edge and sent on a blitz if Cullen feels the need to heat up Teddy Bridgewater with a free rusher.
*Change normal Flutie concept this week to an ultra high from number 1, creating 3 level flood to perimeter, coach it top down from ultra high to sail from #2— Tim Jenkins (@TJenkinsElite) September 16, 2021
*Run boot out of gun with zone read appearance, always use a slider to bail out Teddy when needed
Special teams notes
- This could be one of those games where we see a kick blocked. Jacksonville gave up quite a bit of a rush, but also found a way to sniff the ball when they were rushing.
- Whoever Tom McMahon lines up at his right gunner on punt could have a good day if the Jags continue to ask Shaquil Griffin to block them. Poor is putting it kindly. He was completely ineffective.
- Don’t be surprised if No. 27 makes a play, Chris Claybrooks took over for Griffin partway through the game and also had some really nice rushes from wide on the field goal block team.
Jags could be an opportunity for Tom McMahon to change some narratives. pic.twitter.com/cMxQGnLbb1— Joe Rowles (@JoRo_NFL) September 17, 2021
Your Broncos’ Notes
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The fourth-down conversions are significant because Fangio and the Broncos ranked dead last in the NFL in Aggressiveness Index in 2020. They attempted just three of 84 discretionary fourth-down conversion opportunities last year. “There have been 192 men since 1983 with at least one year as an NFL head coach, and out of that group Fangio’s AI over two seasons ranks 185th,” Aaron Schatz wrote last season. If Fangio is now going for it on fourth down because he has suddenly embraced analytics, he’s not the type to admit it. “That was just my gut,” Fangio told the Broncos website of one of his conversions. “When I brought it up, I didn’t have a lot of backing by anybody. It was kind of cricket-like. … But I said we’re doing it. I just felt like we I had confidence in the offense, number one. And obviously, number two … I knew if we got the first down we could go get some points—didn’t know if it would be three or seven. I thought it was important.”
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Completions are not created equally, and neither are pressures. You already know that. We’re quantifying it.
Washington’s QB carousel has become a constant, and Taylor Heinicke is ready for his turn - The Washington Post
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PAYWALL: Both Sewell and Slater put together impressive debuts against high-level competition with all of the traits that made them obvious first-round talents on display. Seeing their strengths immediately translate and express themselves so prominently is exactly what their teams were hoping to see. While Slater had a cleaner overall performance, Sewell flashed dominant traits after finding out just days before the game that he would be switching sides. Both players had at least one of their few concerns as prospects pop up on film. I don’t want to draw too many conclusions after just one game, but the level of competition each faced suggests they were the impact starters most people expected them to be.